Advertising: The Halifax has got itself a babe magnet

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The Independent Online

What on earth will happen to Howard Brown now? How can they keep him as a Halifax branch manager after he's flown over the world on a swan? On TV. Night after night. Will he go the way of, say, that goofy parking meter attendant or the camp Aeroflot check-in man, and join the sludge of the Z-list celebrity labour market? Or is he contracted to stay in place in Sheldon, Birmingham, for ever?

This is the second Halifax commercial to feature plump black Howard Brown, and it's even more extravagant than the first. Halifax commercials have had big production values for as long as I can remember – all those people piled high in giant human Xs – but this particular 60-second fantasy must be the richest-looking thing currently showing on British TV. It's gorgeous, somewhere between Alexander Korda and those BA set-pieces of the Eighties.

A Jamaican-speaking dolphin heads up from the ocean to introduce the show for the Halifax, then Howard takes off across the water on a gigantic swan. Over the mountains and forests while beautiful Bond-style girls and boys look up in wonder. Howard's away into a UB40ish soft reggae version of "Angel of the Morning" (a lovely song I associate with PP Arnold, a beautiful Ikette who ran away from Mr Turner's beastliness in the Sixties).

This version of the song is about interest and how Howard's going to give you 20 times more of it than any other high-street bank (and he names names). His interest "took off like a rocket, angel". You can't help wondering at this point whether research shows that Howard's previous performance tickled the fancies of potential lady current account holders (without threatening their men).

On and on he goes, over forests with bikers, over famous bridges and between the buildings of a great American city, where beautiful girls are watching him from the windows of top-floor presidential suites, while Howard gets into a genteel rap passage. And on until he reaches a desert island with a giant X for Extra on it.

Halifax has broken ranks with the other high-street banks by competing on current account interest and making a big noise about it. It also seems to have the first home-grown real bank manager star on its hands, along with a glamorous commercial that's fun to some purpose (just think what, say, NatWest's been doing on TV for the last few years). I think Howard's going to float a lot of boats and lift a fair few skirts.

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